Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Successive Generations Living Longer Than Before

I was reading a recent article in the New York Times on estimating longevity in the context of the Social Security Trust Fund. Your Kids Will Live Longer Than You Thought ran in the NY Times on November 10, 2015.  The article discusses statistics and probabilities, explaining how life expectancies are calculated.  Looking at the Social Security projections of life expectancy, the article notes that SSA is likely too conservative in their longevity projections.

The Technical Panel on Assumptions and Methods established by the Social Security Advisory Board, an independent government agency that advises Social Security’s trustees on matters including actuarial assumptions, says Social Security is systematically underestimating future declines in mortality rates, and therefore underestimating the likely life spans of young Americans.

So this is a good news-bad news scenario. Good news for those who get more years of life, bad news for Social Security.  "[O]ne quirk of Social Security is that a piece of obvious good news (People will live longer than we thought!) is bad news from the narrow perspective of paying for retirement benefits (The government will have to pay benefits longer!)."  So how to handle Social Security's too conservative projections? The Congressional Budget Office "tweaked" them by increasing them.

November 11, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, Social Security, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Marshall Kapp Discusses Legal and Pecuniary Aspects of Family Caregiving

I'm always playing catch-up on my "must read" list, but fortunately, others keep me on task.  One such article is Florida State Medicine and Law Professor Marshall Kapp's piece, inspired in part by Hendrik Hartog's 2012 book, Someday All This Will Be Yours

In For Love, Legacy, Or Pay: Legal and Pecuniary Aspects of Family Caregiving, published by the Springer Journals of Case Management, Professor Kapp begins with this overview and note of caution about legal planning:

Most caregiving and companionship provided by family members and friends to elder individuals in home environments occurs because of the caregiver's feelings of ethical and emotional obligation and attachment.  From a legal perspective, though, it might be ill-advised for an informal caregiver to admit to such a motivation.

He advises consideration of personal service or personal service agreements, explaining:

We must reject an analytically attractive and pure, but never really socially realistic, tendency to dichotomize the caregiver experience, recognizing instead that a person may simultaneously be both a family member, with the related emotional and ethical connotations of that label, and a business employee.  Morality and materiality are not incompatible.  Caregiving can be both an act of love and a marketable commodity bought and sold between non-strangers.

As Professor Kapp points out, if we as a society really wanted to encourage family caregiving without all too vague promises about future inheritances, we could go beyond mere tax credits and "instead use public funds to pay family caregivers directly."   

October 14, 2015 in Consumer Information, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Social Security | Permalink

Medicare Part B Premiums in 2016-OUCH for Some Beneficiaries

It's that time of year...CMS releasing the 2016 figures for Medicare. For some beneficiaries, the amount of their Part B premiums and deductibles is going to be a big OUCH!  The New York Times ran an editorial on October 10, 2015 on how the premiums and deductibles are calculated and what it means for some beneficiaries in 2016. The Unlucky Millions Paying More for Medicare explains

Under a 1997 law, premium payments must cover 25 percent of the projected per capita costs for Part B. The premiums, which can rise and fall from year to year, are usually deducted from beneficiaries’ Social Security payments each month. A “hold harmless” provision guarantees that for most people the dollar amount of a premium increase cannot be so big that they are left with a Social Security check that is less than that of the year before. The goal is to ensure that beneficiaries, most of whom have modest incomes, don’t have less money to live on.

Since there will be no Social Security COLA for 2016 but Part B premiums are set to rise, the impact is going to hit hard a certain group of beneficiaries:

The roughly 70 percent of beneficiaries who are “held harmless” will pay the same premium as last year. That means the increased cost will have to be made up by the other 30 percent, because of the rule that premiums must cover one-quarter of Part B costs. This group includes 2.8 million new enrollees, 1.6 million people who don’t collect Social Security benefits and 3.1 million higher-income beneficiaries.

How big a hit will this group take? A pretty big one.  Consider this in dollar amounts. 

The Part B premium has been just under $105 a month for three years, but it is projected to reach $159 in 2016 and then drop to $120 in 2017.

Similarly, the Part B deductible, which must be paid by everyone on Medicare (no one is “held harmless”), will rise from $147 in 2015 to $223 in 2016, before falling back to $169 in 2017. This will pose a particular burden to beneficiaries just above the poverty line who aren’t eligible for assistance from Medicaid in paying deductibles.

The editorial calls for action by Congress to resolve the way premiums are determined. But for now, OUCH!

October 14, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Medicare, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Senate Special Committee on Aging--Hearing on ID Theft

The Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing on October 7, 2015.  The subject of the hearing  was Protecting Seniors from Identity Theft: Is the Federal Government Doing Enough?” 

Witnesses included a representative of the Senior Medicare Patrol, HHS, CMS and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).  Individual witness' testimony  is available for download as a pdf. A video of the hearing is available here. The EPIC witness testified concerning identify theft related to Social Security Numbers. A press release about his testimony is available from the EPIC website here.

October 12, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 9, 2015

Filial Friday: Freakonomics Asks "Should Kids Pay Back Parents for Raising Them?"

In a convergence of my teaching, research and public outreach work, this week I've found myself in several overlapping conversations about whether adult children have obligations -- moral or legal -- to care for or financially support their parents.  

This week, following my Elder Law Prof Blog post recommending Hendrik Hartog's fascinating book, Someday All This Will Be Yours, which I also recommended to my Trust & Estate students, I had a nice series of virtual conversations with Dirk about his book. What a thoughtful historian he is.  We were talking about his research-based observation in the book about adult children and needy parents:

Adult children were not legally bound to remain and to work for their parents.  Nor were they obligated to care for the old.  Adult children were, paradigmatically and legally, free individuals, "emancipated," to use the technical term. . . . Furthermore, there was little -- perhaps nothing-- to keep an uncaring or careless adult child from allowing a parent to go over the hill to the poorhouse.

I asked, "what about filial support laws?"  Turns out that was a timely question because Professor Hartog  had just been interviewed for a Freakonomics Radio episode, "Should Kids Pay Back Their Parent for Raising Them?" The program became publically available, via podcast or written transcript, on October 8, 2015.  In the interview Professor Hartog was asked to comment on filial support laws.  He said in part:

Filial responsibility statutes are very weak efforts to ensure that the young will support the old if they are needy.... They rarely are enforced.  Very, very, very, very rarely.  So, you know, in a sense, every time they are enforced they become a New York Times article or they become an article in the local newspapers. 

Professor Hartog was speaking in large measure from the perspective of his important historical research, including review of a body of case reports from New Jersey spanning some 100 years from the mid 1880s to the mid 1900s.  And based on my own historical research, I would also say that in the U.S., filial support laws have been rarely enforced, although I would characterize the enforcement as often "episodic" in nature, especially after the growth of Social Security and Medicaid benefits.  But...

I think the modern story is quite different in at least one state -- Pennsylvania.  Part of this difference is tied to the fact that Pennsylvania's filial support law permits enforcement by commercial third-parties, including nursing homes, as I discussed in my 2013 article on Filial Support Laws in the Modern Era.  Other U.S. jurisdictions with "modern" enforcement cases are South Dakota and Puerto Rico.

Indeed, I'm speaking on October 9, 2015 at the invitation of a Bench and Bar Conference in Gettysburg, PA about "The Festering Hot Topic" of Filial Support Laws in Pennsylvania. In the presentation, I report on controversies arising from recent, aggressive collection efforts by law firms representing nursing homes, as well the latest examples of successful enforcement suits by nursing homes and family members. I also analyze a disturbing additional claim, where Germany is seeking to enforce its filial support law to compel a U.S. resident to pay toward the costs of care for an ailing father in Germany. 

Ultimately, I think that Professor Hartog and I agree more than we disagree about the lack of behavioral impact flowing from filial support laws. As demonstrated by Professor Hartog in his book, much care and support is provided by children, but flowing from complicated moral or personal inclinations, rather than statute-based lawsuits.

This seems a more realistic paradigm, although  not without opportunities for misunderstanding and disappointment. But, as I often observe, the very last person I would want involved in my care would be someone who is doing it "only" because a statute -- much less a court -- is telling them they must care for me.

October 9, 2015 in Books, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, International, Medicaid, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Life Expectancy and Income: A New Report

The National Academies Press has issued a new report, The Growing Gap in Life Expectancy by Income: Implications for Federal Programs and Policy Responses.  Here is a description from the book

he U.S. population is aging. Social Security projections suggest that between 2013 and 2050, the population aged 65 and over will almost double, from 45 million to 86 million. One key driver of population aging is ongoing increases in life expectancy. Average U.S. life expectancy was 67 years for males and 73 years for females five decades ago; the averages are now 76 and 81, respectively. It has long been the case that better-educated, higher-income people enjoy longer life expectancies than less-educated, lower-income people. The causes include early life conditions, behavioral factors (such as nutrition, exercise, and smoking behaviors), stress, and access to health care services, all of which can vary across education and income.

Our major entitlement programs ? Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income ? have come to deliver disproportionately larger lifetime benefits to higher-income people because, on average, they are increasingly collecting those benefits over more years than others. This report studies the impact the growing gap in life expectancy has on the present value of lifetime benefits that people with higher or lower earnings will receive from major entitlement programs. The analysis presented in The Growing Gap in Life Expectancy by Income goes beyond an examination of the existing literature by providing the first comprehensive estimates of how lifetime benefits are affected by the changing distribution of life expectancy. The report also explores, from a lifetime benefit perspective, how the growing gap in longevity affects traditional policy analyses of reforms to the nation?s leading entitlement programs. This in-depth analysis of the economic impacts of the longevity gap will inform debate and assist decision makers, economists, and researchers.

You can download the report as a pdf for free, read the report online, or purchase a hard copy of the report for $64.  Click here for more information.

October 1, 2015 in Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mark Your Calendars-Webinar on Social Security Fraud, Similar Fault & Penalties.

The Center for Elder Rights Advocacy (CERA) has announced their upcoming webinar on October 8th, 2015.  The webinar, Social Security Fraud, Similar Fault & Penalties will take place from 2 - 3:30 p.m. eastern.  According to the website

CERA presents a webinar regarding the issue of clients reporting an overpayment involving allegations by Social Security of “fraud or similar fault.” These cases present unique challenges for the hotline attorney. Social Security’s rules on overpayments differ when Social Security finds that the overpayment resulted from “fraud or similar fault.” Normal due process rules for overpayments do not apply, and Social Security can assess additional financial penalties when an administrative determination is made that “fraud or similar fault” is applicable. This webinar will address ways to advise clients who receive a notice from Social Security alleging an overpayment involving “fraud and similar fault,” or who have an overpayment on their record with such a determination. The webinar is particularly directed toward legal hotline advocates and managers.

This webinar addresses:

  • A review of rules applicable to “fraud and similar fault” findings.
  • A discussion of differences in normal overpayment collection cases vs. fraud cases.
  • Giving competent advice to clients faced with an overpayment arising from fraud or similar fault.

To register, click here.


September 30, 2015 in Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Programs/CLEs, Social Security, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Florida to Consider Establishment of "Office of Public and Professional Guardians"

As we have tracked recently on this Blog, in a number of states, including Florida and Nevada, serious questions have been raised about the roles of guardians for disabled and elderly persons, and the extent to which there should be public oversight of guardians, especially "paid" guardians, including public guardians, "professional" guardians or "private" guardians. 

In Florida, newly proposed legislation, Senate Bill 232 (filed in September 2015) would seek to clarify state oversight of all guardians, following on the heels of amendments to Florida state law enacted in mid-2015.  Florida's legislature may take up the latest bill early in 2016, according to media reports.  Key provisions in the bill include:

  • renaming of the current office of "public guardianships," with expanded duties and responsibilities, to create the "Office of and Professional Guardians;"
  • addition of findings about the potential need for a "public guardian" where there is "no willing and responsible family member or friend, other person, bank, or corporation available to serve;"
  • a requirement that "professional" guardians "shall" register with the state;
  • directions to establish a comprehensive system for receipt and state action on complaints made about professional guardians.

From reading SB 232, it seems to me there may be some attempt to appease the concerns about the potential for overregulation of so-called "professional" guardians, as new language in Section 744.2001  requires development and implementation of a new "monitoring tool to ensure compliance of professional guardians with standards" set by the Office, but this "monitoring tool may not include a financial audit " as specified in another section of the law (emphasis added).

Funding will be needed to make expanded oversight effective.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune has reacted favorably to the latest proposal


September 15, 2015 in Consumer Information, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Property Management, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 31, 2015

Social Security Fast Facts

The Pew Research Center on August 18, 2015 released the FactTank  5 facts about Social Security (the FactTank is "[r]eal-time analysis and news about data from Pew Research writers and social scientists."). So what are those 5 facts? Here you go!

  1. Social Security touches more people than just about any other federal program.
  2. Social Security is, and always has been, an inter-generational transfer of wealth.
  3. Right now, Social Security has plenty of assets.
  4. But since 2010, Social Security’s cash expenses have exceeded its cash receipts. 
  5. Social Security’s combined reserves likely will be fully depleted by 2034....

August 31, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

2015 National Aging & Law Conference

The National Aging & Law Conference is scheduled for October 29-30, 2015 at the Hilton Arlington, Arlington, VA. A number of ABA commissions and divisions are sponsors of this conference including the Commission on Legal Problems of the Elderly, the Coordinating Committee on Veterans Benefits & Services, the Senior Lawyers Division and the Real Property, Trust & Estate Law Section.  The website describes the conference

The 2015 National Aging and Law Conference (NALC) will bring together substantive law, policy, and legal service development and delivery practitioners from across the country.  The program will include sessions on Medicare, Medicaid, guardianship, elder abuse, legal ethics, legal service program development and delivery, consumer law, income security, and other issues.

The 2015 National Aging and Law Conference marks the second year that this conference has been hosted by the American Bar Association. This year’s agenda will include 24 workshops and 4 plenary sessions on key topics in health care, income security, elder abuse, alternatives to guardianship, consumer law, and  legal service development and delivery.  The focus of the agenda is on issues impacting law to moderate income Americans age 60 and over and the front line advocates that serve them. 

The agenda is available here. To register, click here.  Early bird registration ends August 28, 2015.


August 16, 2015 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Social Security, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

ADA Turns 25

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law 25 years ago, on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush. According to the information on the ADA website

Twenty-five years ago, through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), our nation committed itself to eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division  is proud to play a critical role in enforcing the ADA, working towards a future  in which all the doors are open to equality of opportunity, full participation,  independent living, integration and economic self-sufficiency for persons with  disabilities. In honor of the 25th anniversary of the ADA, each month the  Department of Justice will spotlight efforts that are opening gateways to full  participation and opportunity for people with disabilities.

The efforts that are spotlighted can be accessed here.  Concomitant with the anniversary, the Social Security Administration's July 27, 2015 blog, Supporting the Americans with Disabilities Act, focused on the ADA's anniversary. 

There were a number of articles highlighting the ADA's anniversary.  For example, the New York Times  ran a Room for Debate on the ADA, The Americans With Disabilities Act, 25 Years LaterNPR did a story on the ADA's influence on other countries, How A Law To Protect Disabled Americans Became Imitated Around The World and the Washington Post ran an article by Professor Robert L. Burgdorf Jr., Why I Wrote the Americans with Disabilities ActPresident Obama spoke about the anniversary of the ADA and the White House website has a page devoted to issues facing Americans with disabilities. 

If you cover the ADA in your classes, there are many more useful articles and stories released as a result of the  ADA's 25th anniversary. 

July 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, Discrimination, Federal Statutes/Regulations, International, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Social Security & Medicare Trustees Annual Reports

On July 22, 2015 the Social Security Trustees issued its annual report about the Social Security Trust funds. According to the press release, the good news overall is SSA gained a year in solvency. The bad news, the disability insurance trust fund reserve runs out of money next year.

The combined asset reserves of the Old-Age  and Survivors Insurance, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds are  projected to become depleted in 2034, one year later than projected last year,  with 79 percent of benefits payable at that time.  The DI Trust Fund reserve will become depleted in  2016, unchanged from last year’s estimate, with 81 percent of benefits still  payable.

In the press release, Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin addressed the DI Trust Fund issue:

While the projected depletion date of the combined OASDI trust funds gained a year, the Disability Insurance Trust Fund's projected depletion year remains 2016. I agree with President Obama, we have to keep Social Security strong, protecting its future solvency. President Obama's FY 2016 budget proposes to address this near-term Disability Insurance Trust Fund's reserve depletion. By reallocating a portion of payroll taxes from Old Age Survivors to the Disability Trust Fund - as has been done many times in the past - would have no adverse effect on the solvency of the overall Social Security program....

The full report The 2015 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal      Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds is available as a pdf here.

The Medicare Trustees report was also released on July 22, 2015. The news from Medicare was slightly better, with the trust fund solvency still in place through 2030.

[T]he Medicare Trustees projected that the trust fund that finances Medicare’s hospital insurance coverage will remain solvent until 2030, unchanged from last year, but with an improved long-term outlook from last year's report. Under this year’s projection, the trust fund will remain solvent 13 years longer than the Trustees projected in 2009, before the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

However, the press release notes an anticipated increase in Medicare Part B premiums for next year:

[A]pproximately 70 percent of beneficiaries are expected not to see a premium increase in 2016 because it is projected that there will be no cost-of-living increases in Social Security benefits. The remaining 30 percent of beneficiaries would pay a higher premium based on this projection. These include only individuals who enroll in Part B for the first time in 2016; enrollees who do not receive a Social Security benefit; beneficiaries that are directly billed for their Part B premium; and current enrollees who pay an income related higher premium. Decisions about premium changes will be made in October and depend on a variety of factors.

The full report is available as a PDF here.

July 24, 2015 in Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Highlights from Upcoming Pennsylvania Elder Law Institute on July 23 & 24

Probably the best bang for your CLE buck in Pennsylvania comes from the two-day Elder Law Institute hosted each summer by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute. This year the 18th annual event is on July 23 & 24 in Harrisburg. 

Highlights include:

  • "The Year in Review" with attorneys Marielle Hazen and Robert Clofine sharing duties to report on key legislative, regulatory and judicial developments from the last 12 months;
  • How to "maximize" eligibility for home and community based services (Steve Feldman and Pam Walz);
  • Cross disciplinary discussions of end-of-life care with medical professionals and hospice providers;
  • LTC "provider" perspectives (Kimber Latsha and Jacqueline Shafer);
  • Latest on proposals to change Veterans' Pension Benefits (Dennis Pappas);
  • Implementation of the Pa Supreme Court's Elder Law Task Force Recommendations (Judges Lois Murphy, Paula Ott, Sheila Woods-Skipper & Christin Hamel);
  • A closing session opportunity, "Let's Ask the Department of Human Services Counsel" (with Addie Abelson, Mike Newell & Lesley Oakes)

There is still time to registration (you can attend one or both days; lunches are included and there is a reception the first evening).  

I think this is the first year I have missed this key opportunity for networking and updates; but I'm sending my research assistant!    

July 16, 2015 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Medicaid, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Property Management, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

July 15: ABA Hosts Webinar on What Every Attorney Needs to Know about SSI

Two of my favorite bright lawyers (with great hearts, too) are Kate Lang from Justice in Aging in Washington D.C. and John Whitelaw from Community Legal Services of Philadelphia.  Kate and John are the speakers at an upcoming ABA hosted webinar on Supplemental Security Income (SSI): What Every Attorney Needs to Know.

Time:  1 to 2:30 p.m. (Eastern Time)

Date: Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Here are other details about registration and cost. 

July 8, 2015 in Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Programs/CLEs, Social Security, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 6, 2015

California State Bar Offers On-Line Guide for "Seniors and the Law"

SeniorsEnglish2015COVERThe State Bar of California offers an on-line "guide for maturing Californians," available in PDF format.  This is an updated, 2015 version. At first I was a bit dubious, as the length is just 12 pages and the print is small. However, on closer look (and with the help of that little built-in magnifying class for reading PDF documents on line), I found it fairly comprehensive and a good starting place. It works not just for seniors but the whole family. 

Written in a logical Q & A format, often starting with "yes or no" answers before offering a more detailed explanation and suggested resources, the brochure covers topics such as:


  • What is Supplemental Security Income?
  • Can my landlord evict me for any reason at all?
  • Can I install grab bars, lower my counters or make other needed modifications over my landlord's objections?
  • How is Medi-Cal different from Medicare?
  • How can I help ensure that my affairs will be handled my way if I become incapacitated?
  • If my elderly mother gives away her assets, will Medi-Cal pay for a nursing home?

In addition, the brochure describes more subtle topics such as how "assisted living communities," may differ (and be covered by different regulations ) than "continuing care retirement communities," or why "living trust mills" are something to avoid.  It warns that insurance brokers and agents other investment advisors are prohibited in California from using "senior specific" certificates or designations to mislead consumers. 

According to the July 215 issue of the California Bar Journal, the senior guide is available in both Spanish and English, although I could only find the English version on-line.  Free print copies are available for order (although donations to offset costs are accepted!)  

Thank you to Professor Laurel Terry for sharing this resource! 

July 6, 2015 in Books, Consumer Information, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Social Security, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Pensions at Heart of Greek Debt Crisis

As negotiations over the Greek debt crisis continue, with another crisis point looming this week, much of the attention is on the issue of pension reform, with Eurozone critics demanding cuts in benefits and pointing to early "full retirement" and payments that rival real wages.  However, as several accounts help to explain, individuals' public pensions are often important to entire family structures, especially as younger Greek workers are unable to find jobs with adequate wages, and unemployment compensation is unavailable. 

For more see Bloomberg News: Unwed Daughters in Greece Catch "Time Bomb" in Pension Overhaul

From National Public Radio: Greece Pledges New Proposal to Resolve Debt Crisis

Daily MailAlex Brummer:  Could This Weekend be a Lehman Moment for Greece?  

June 21, 2015 in Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, International, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Northern Ireland Advocate Calls for Overhaul of Adult Social Care Legislation

During the last two years I have had the fascinating opportunity to work on two major studies of laws and government policies affecting older persons and their families in Northern Ireland, studies initiated by the Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland (COPNI). The earlier study looked at safeguarding systems.  Now the second study has been made public, with Northern Ireland Commissioner Claire Keatinge using the work to recommend major reforms of Adult Social Care laws in her country. COPNI Claire Keatinge Launch of Call for Reform of Adult Social CareThe formal launch of her "call for change" occurred on June 16 in Belfast. 

Two of my four research colleagues, Dr. Joe Duffy (far left, who led the research team) and Dr. Gavin Davidson, (far right) both of Queens University Belfast, were present for the launch, with Joe giving introductory remarks to the audience of government officials and community stakeholders.  The fourth member of our team is Dr. Subhajit Basu of the University of Leeds in England.  Our research evaluated government policies and law in more than ten nations, looking for legal trends, best practices and cutting edge social care programs.

Significantly, in addition to recommending a comprehensive legislative framework and funding structure to coordinate services for all adults in need of assistance, one key recommendation announced by Commissioner Keatinge (left center above) and highlighted in our investigative report, is to implement a "Support Visit" for any interested person age 75 years or older, by an appropriately trained health and social care worker.  This recommendation, which draws upon Denmark's successful experience with a "preventative home visitor" program, would create an opportunity for a psychosocial dialogue aimed at advance planning.  The goal is to help individuals and family members anticipate needs in the event of functional impairment, thus reducing the need for crisis planning. 

I've become a big fan of Commissioner Keatinge; she is clear, creative, realistic, and determined to see Northern Ireland become a world leader in recognizing not just the needs but the contributions made by older adults.  She does so from a platform of respecting older persons' contributions, citing research to demonstrate that over the next several decades, older adults will contribute more than £25 billion to the Northern Ireland economy through formal work, volunteering, and their roles as caretakers for both adults and children.

It had been an honor for me to work on this social care reform project.  The work has given me -- and Dickinson Law students serving as research assistants, Ryan Givens and Tucker Anderson (who used his ability to speak and translate Danish to help in our field research) -- important new perspectives on proactive ways to identify and address potential needs triggered by age-related changes in demographics.  Frankly, in the U.S. we spend far more time (and arguably too much time) on issues of medical care.  This report is a reminder that many health-care crises could be avoided or mitigated through more proactive implementation of social care networks.

For more on the Duffy, Davidson, Basu, Pearson report (June 2015), see Review of Legislation & Policy Guidance Relating to Adult Social Care in Northern Ireland.

For more on Commissioner Claire Keatinge's call for reform, see Commissioner Calls for Overhaul of Adult Social Care.

See here, for more on Denmark's approaches to services, communication and programming for older people.

Special thanks to Ryan and Tucker for their research, proofreading, editing and translation skills! 

June 16, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, International, Retirement, Science, Social Security, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Another Report on Retirement Security Preparedness

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report dated May, 2015 on Retirement Security: Most Households Approaching Retirement Have Low SavingsThe 51 page report is available here.  The GAO offered this summary:

Many retirees and workers approaching retirement have limited financial resources. About half of households age 55 and older have no retirement savings (such as in a 401(k) plan or an IRA). According to GAO's analysis of the 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances, many older households without retirement savings have few other resources, such as a defined benefit (DB) plan or nonretirement savings, to draw on in retirement (see figure below). For example, among households age 55 and older, about 29 percent have neither retirement savings nor a DB plan, which typically provides a monthly payment for life. Households that have retirement savings generally have other resources to draw on, such as non-retirement savings and DB plans. Among those with some retirement savings, the median amount of those savings is about $104,000 for households age 55-64 and $148,000 for households age 65-74, equivalent to an inflation-protected annuity of $310 and $649 per month, respectively. Social Security provides most of the income for about half of households age 65 and older...

Studies and surveys GAO reviewed provide mixed evidence about the adequacy of retirement savings. Studies range widely in their conclusions about the degree to which Americans are likely to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living in retirement, largely because of different assumptions about how much income this goal requires. The studies generally found about one-third to two-thirds of workers are at risk of falling short of this target. In surveys, compared to current retirees, workers age 55 and older expect to retire later and a higher percentage plan to work during retirement. However, one survey found that about half of retirees said they retired earlier than planned due to health problems, changes at their workplace, or other factors, suggesting that many workers may be overestimating their future retirement income and savings. Surveys have also found that people age 55-64 are less confident about their finances in retirement than those who are age 65 or older

Highlights of the GAO report are available here.

June 11, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 29, 2015

Looking to Cuba for Comparative Law, Aging and Health Studies

Light blogging ahead for me, as I will be leaving in a couple of days for my first visit to Cuba, as part of a small Penn State University faculty group.  I'm confident I will have plenty of things to do with my time other than searching for an elusive internet café!

Seriously, I'm excited, on a number of levels.  First, I lived for several years in a Cuban-immigrant neighborhood in Miami at the end of law school, and many of my fellow judicial clerks and friends were the first generation sons and daughters of Cuban refugees.  Second, I've been educated by my Irish friend, Dr. Una Lynch, to appreciate the world-wide significance of the Cuban health care system, and I'm eager to see how they accomplish much with comparatively few resources.  Third, my Elder Law colleague, Amos Goodall Esq., State College, PA, has shared great suggestions for art and food. Plus, Attorney Karen Miller (NY and Florida) has shared her contacts with me from her travels and studies about law in Cuba. ¡Gracias a todos!

Here are a couple of items from some of my background reading on Cuba, including health care and aging statistics:

Turning to Cuba, let us examine the possible consequences of the tendency towards population aging that we have described. In the economic field, the consequences include an accelerated demand for the funds to cover social security expenditures. In fact, since 1970 funds budgeted for old-age, disability and death benefits have quintupled.  National budget expenditures for social security are higher than those of any other sector (e.g. education, health, defense, etc.) (Cuban National Statistics Office, 1999 "c"). 


At the same time, as the average age of Cuba's workforce increases over the coming years, we will see a deficit of workers for labor requiring greater physical effort, especially for agriculture, construction and industry, among others.  Consequently, the main economic difficulty Cuba faces today-as it did during the colonial period and at the beginning of the 20th century-is an insufficient workforce.

From Aging in Cuba, Realities and Challenges, byAlberta Duran Gondar and Ernesto Chavez Negrin.

During her recent visit to Havana in July of 2014, Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), impressed by the country's achievements in this field, praised the Cuban health care system: "Cuba is the only country that has a health care system closely linked to research and development. This is the way to go, because human health can only improve through innovation," She also praised "the efforts of the country's leadership for having made health an essential pillar of development." 

From Opera Mundi, translated into English for the Huffington Post.

May 29, 2015 in Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, International, Social Security, Statistics, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Modern Day Coverture? Medicaid Eligibility Rules' Harsh Effect on Married Women

University of South Dakota Assistant Professor of Law Thomas E. Simmons has an intriguing article in the summer 2015 issue of Hastings Women's Law Journal.  From his article, "Medicaid as Coverture," here are some excerpts (minus detailed footnotes)  to whet your appetite:

Not long ago, married women possessed limited rights to own separate property or contract independently of their husbands.  Beginning in the nineteenth century, most of the most serious legal impediments to women enjoying ownership rights in property and freedom of contract were removed....


Three twenty-first century developments, however, diminish some of this progress.  First, later-in-life (typically second) marriages have become more common.... These types of couples were not the spouses that reformers had in mind in designing inheritance rights or other property rights arising out of the marital relationship....


Second, perhaps as a product of advocacy for women's property rights, and perhaps out of a larger social remodeling, women's holdings of wealth have made significant advances.... [But] women of some wealth (in later-in-life marriages, especially) may in fact find themselves penalized by the very gender-neutral reforms that were designed to help them; especially, as will be unpacked and amplified below, when those reforms interface with Medicaid rules.


Third, beginning in the late twentieth century, the possibility of ongoing custodial care costs became the single greatest threat to financial security for older Americans.

As practicing elder law attorneys experience on a daily basis, Medicaid eligibility rules, despite the so-called "Spousal Impoverishment" protections, can impact especially harshly on married women as the community spouses.  They are often younger and thus will have their own financial needs, frequently have been caregivers before being widowed, but their personal assets may still be included in the Medicaid estate for purposes of determining their husbands' eligibility. This article takes a critical, interesting approach to that problem.  

May 25, 2015 in Discrimination, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)